By Madison Pastrick | Staff Writer
The Red Masquers are presenting their first main-stage drama of the season with the disturbing and unconventional love story “How I Learned to Drive.”
The show premiers Nov. 3 and runs every Thursday through Sunday until Nov.13 at the Genesius Theater. This stunning American play by Paula Vogel pulls audiences into a metaphorical drive through one character’s experience with issues of pedophilia, incest and misogyny.
Vogel’s story takes place in 1960s rural Maryland and is told through the flashbacks of a young girl named Li’l Bit, played by Fiona Joyce, as she comes to terms with the sexually abusive relationship she’s been having with her middle-aged and married Uncle Peck, played by Michael Makar.
“I have been looking forward to directing this show for five years now,” Justin Sines, the director of the show, said. “It’s an important story to tell, and I’m glad that we’re finally getting to tell it.”
Dealing with issues that often go unspoken, this play gives a voice to those who have suffered similar fates as Li’l Bit.
“How I Learned to Drive” earned Vogel the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1998. The play was lauded for taking on such a serious topic, but with a sense of humor that draws audience members’ attention where needed and creates an intimate perspective on such a disturbing topic.
One of the most controversial traits of this show is Vogel’s refusal to portray Li’l Bit as the victim in this scenario, as well as presenting Uncle Peck, at times, as a fairly likable character.
Sines said the show is expected to trigger some unpleasant memories for several viewers and create an emotional attachment between the characters and audience. Through the underlying tragedy, however, is an overall, hopeful tone as the story follows Li’l Bit heroically overcoming her destructive past.
There are three additional actors — Anthony Fellowes, Nikki Purwin and Keely Ann Rose — that take on the remainder of Li’l Bit’s family and classmates. These actors take on the challenge of portraying multiple roles and performing monologues that expose the family’s dysfunctional state and address other relatable traumas, such as puberty.
These actors provide much of the comedic relief in the play, taking on roles that include a bitter, old-fashioned grandmother, a caring, but helpless parent and an awkward schoolmate named Greg. Along with this element of humor, these characters also perform a vocal number Li’l Bit creates in her head when her memories become too difficult to recall as they were. Despite these characters’ absurdity, they still manage a fantastic job at bringing a sense of awareness to the audience on the appalling tolerance seen for the scandalous affair.
Sines couldn’t be happier with his cast.
“I feel that everyone has really pulled together a great finalized production and that the vision that I’ve had for five years has appeared and expanded upon greatly,” he said.
The curtain opened Thursday with a full house, and continues to run until Nov. 13. Admission is free to all Duquesne students, staff and faculty members and prices for the public range from $6.50 to $16.50. Tickets can be purchased online now at duqredmasquers.com, or at the box office on the night of the show. Don’t miss your chance at seeing this fantastic portrayal of a shocking account, sure to leave you speechless.